A School Year to Remember

Tuesday March 14th 2023

We announced details of our Centenary celebrations back in September 2022. Here we reflect on the momentous time for the school and some of the highlights during the commemorative year.

100 years of Elmhurst Ballet School was not going to go by without a party, or two! The year has been an opportunity for us to learn about the rich history of the school and who since 1923 has made Elmhurst what it is today.

Helping us to tell that story is the Centenary Wall Art now on permanent display in the school foyer. The 8.7m x 2.7m design takes the viewer from Elmhurst beginnings in Camberley to its pioneering developments in dance training, education, health & wellbeing and research in Birmingham, and so much more in between. Unveiled by Her Majesty The Queen Consort (now HM Queen Camilla) on 14 March 2023, the wall art is the perfect addition to the school building.

We kicked off the celebrations in October with 100 Years of Elmhurst on World Ballet Day, an important day in the dance calendar that helps shines a light on the ballet sector, ballet companies and ballet schools. It was the perfect moment to let the world know about Elmhurst’s 100th birthday.

In December, students from across the school shared their artistic and dance developments in a Centenary Winter Sharing Performance for family and friends. Taking place in our studio theatre, the presentations enabled parents to witness first-hand the progress their children had made. For our youngest students it marked the first time they performed at Elmhurst. Also in December, the Centenary Christmas Service brought the entire school community together. Elmhurst religious services date back to 1923 when the school was founded by Helen Mortimer. The very first services and morning prayers took place in Elmhurst's Big Hall and from the 1930s in The Chapel of the Holy Child, part of the school's former Camberley site. Fast forward to the present day and we are thrilled Elmhurst services continue in the beautiful setting of Edgbaston's St Bartholomew's Church, also known as Edgbaston Old Church, Birmingham. 

In February, our first ever Alumni Week – we hope there will be many more to come – brought Elmies past and present to Birmingham. Many of the Camberley alumni hadn’t seen the Edgbaston site so it was wonderful to introduce them to the current facilities. During the week, alumni working in dance, inspired current students with workshops and Q&A sessions and ‘Old Elms’, now dancing with Birmingham Royal Ballet, passed on lots of invaluable advice.

Our graduate year, the Class of 2023 Elmhurst Ballet Company headed to London and Sadler’s Wells for performances of Legacy. We received many wonderful comments about the show before it also played in Birmingham, including from Catherine Bott, the Classic FM presenter who watched the Saturday evening show in London. Catherine said on her Sunday show: “Cheers and bravi to the talented cygnets of Elmhurst Ballet Company about to spread their wings as they leave the school. Last night’s showcase at Sadler’s Wells was a real treat. Such talent and teamwork…congrats to teachers Michael Raynaud and Joshua Barwick for expert coaching and some amazing contrasted numbers. We got everything, from tutus to top hats…”.

The British Theatre Guide reviewer said: “Commitment, dedication, hard work and love for the art of dance, Elmhurst Ballet Company are a pleasure. The mixed bill is titled Legacy and what could be more appropriate for what we’ve seen.’”

Midlands based Behind the Arras dot com, said: Graduates in the past have gone into ballet, contemporary dance, world famous companies such as New Adventures, musical theatre, teaching and dance related jobs and careers. On this showing the Class of 2023 have the class to do the same.”

The mammoth Centenary year concluded with performances of Century and our Centenary Summer Ball with the evening’s menu curated by Birmingham’s first Michelin star chef, Glynn Purnell.

Thank you to everyone who supported our Centenary celebrations and to all the students and staff, past and present, whose input really was the cherry on the icing on a very big birthday cake! 

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